The Little Kids Eventually Catch Up

Failure to thrive babies who grow slowly eventually catch up to their typical peers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Some babies don't grow as quickly as they should. This is called "failure to thrive." The important question is whether these babies ever catch up to other kids.

According to a new study, these babies do eventually catch up to other typical children.

The authors found that how they catch up depends on how old they were when they began falling behind in weight or length.

Babies who had failure to thrive at a younger age began catching up more quickly. Those who were older infants when they were growing slowly took a bit longer to catch up.

"Ask your pediatrician about growth rates."

The study, led by Zia ud Din, PhD, of the Department of Human Nutrition at KP Agricultural University in Pakistan, aimed to find out how babies turned out as teenagers if they were not of sufficient weight as infants.

Some babies experience a condition known as "weight faltering" or "failure to thrive." These terms mean that a baby does not gain weight at the rate they normally should or that they start inappropriately losing weight.

In general, a baby who has "weight faltering" or "failure to thrive" is not physically growing at the expected rate, although it does not refer to anything dealing with social, emotional or brain development.

For this study, the researchers included babies whose weight gain was in the lowest fifth of the population as those with weight faltering.

The researchers gathered measurements on the weight, height, body mass index (BMI) and mid-arm circumference of 11,499 babies from infancy until they were 13 years old. The children's waist circumference was also measured when they were 7, 10 and 13 years old.

Among these children, 507 had "early" weight faltering before they were 2 months old, and 480 had "late" weight faltering when they were between 2 and 9 months old.

The early weight faltering group began gaining weight more quickly from 2 months old until 2 years old. After age 2, they gained weight at the same rate as the children with typical growth, but they grew a little more slowly in height throughout childhood.

However, by the time the early weight faltering group was 13 years old, they were similar to the typically growing children in terms of BMI, mid-arm circumference and waist circumference.

Meanwhile, the late weight faltering group steadily gained weight throughout childhood, but they did not catch up in weight gain to the other children until they were between 7 and 10 years old. Their height growth followed the same pattern as their weight growth.

By the time the late weight faltering group reached age 13, they were still lighter and shorter than the other typically growing children, but they were within the appropriate "normal" range of typically growing children.

Therefore, both groups of children with weight faltering, or failure to thrive, ended up catching up to some extent with typically growing children. Those whose failure to thrive occurred before 2 months were fully caught up by age 13.

Meanwhile, those with failure to thrive between 2 and 9 months took longer to start catching up, and they were still a little behind in height and weight at age 13. But they were still within the normal range for a general population by then.

The study was published February 25 in the journal Pediatrics. The research did not use external funding. One author has received researching funding and lecture fees from Pfizer Nutrition, Danone and Plum Baby, all of whom manufacture infant foods. No other disclosures were noted.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 23, 2013
Last Updated:
February 24, 2013